Based on T.S. Eliot’s poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the musical “Cats” has become a classic beloved by many. The intricate details in makeup, music, and choreography have made the musical an enormous success, with record-breaking runs on both Broadway and London’s West End. With audience demand for a film version growing, director Tom Hooper took on the bold task of creating a live-action adaptation of the musical. But the film, released in theaters on Dec. 20, has been met with an avalanche of criticism, from critics and audiences alike.
“Lots of scenes in the movie were questionable,” said Angela Lee (12), a fan of the original musical. “It almost felt like the director was trying so hard to impress audiences that he just ended up ruining the whole thing. Granted, I was impressed by the production design and the choreography, but movie adaptations of blockbuster musicals are difficult to pull off. Also, I think they tried too hard to come up with a story to make up for the fact that the musical is basically plotless, but they just ended up with a thin plot that wasn’t very interesting.”
In addition to the weak storyline, many viewers have found the film’s images unsettling. Because computer graphics did not completely alter the physical features of the actors, the results are jarring and incongruous, with the cats’ paws looking more like human feet, for example. Numerous critics have been nonplussed by how poor the CGI imagery is, especially considering how much anticipation there was for a live-action adaptation.
“‘Cats’ is absolutely terrible,” said Elly Choi (11), a viewer of the film. “Many of the effects they created using computer graphics seemed incomplete. I remember at least one instance where it seemed like they had simply forgotten to fill in all the color for one of the actors’ fur. Even the musical arrangement seemed not quite right, which is egregious considering how famous the songs from the musical are. The whole thing is a shoddy, creepy mess.”
Considering that this was the first big-screen adaptation of “Cats” to make it to theaters, many viewers were disappointed and confused by how director Tom Hooper could have failed to deliver on such a high-profile project. There are rumors that the process of making the film was fraught with setbacks, and Hooper himself confessed at the movie’s New York premiere that he had finished the final edit of the film merely hours before arriving. Hooper’s admission, as well as the chorus of negative reviews, reveals the difficulty of bringing off a live-action version of a blockbuster musical beloved by millions of people.
“I don’t think that anyone is necessarily to blame for all the negative reactions the film has received,” said Eunice Yang (10), a movie enthusiast. “Sure, some parts of the movie seemed like they had been rushed. But overall, ‘Cats’ simply works better as a musical. The dance moves, unique costumes, and the richness of the actors’ performances all come to life on stage in a way that they just can’t on a big screen. I think the failure of ‘Cats’ as a film will become a cautionary tale for filmmakers who want to adapt musicals. It was definitely bold to try recreating one of the most famous musicals of all time into a live-action movie, and I commend the director for his courage. But some musicals just fit the stage better.”